Sweaty palms. Racing pulse. Nerves going haywire. Sound familiar? These are the typical reactions many of us have to job interviews. And that’s just the one-on-one variety. What about a panel interview, where three or more people are grilling you about every aspect of your past and future career? Compared to being interviewed by a single questioner, a panel can be incredibly daunting. You might be fielding questions from the HR manager, plus someone in the department you’re applying for, and perhaps even an external recruitment expert. While it may appear somewhat frightening and overwhelming, there are many ways you can ease the stress with preparation.
As with any job interview, it is vital to do your research when facing a panel. Considering you might be in front of people from different departments, you’ve got to make sure you have a well-rounded overview of the company, and not just the department or specific role you’re seeking to work in. Use your search engine research skills to find out everything you can about the company – its history, its mission statement, its various departments, products and services. You may not need all of the information you gather, but knowing you have it in your memory bank just in case will be a comfort in itself.
Another key tip especially useful in panel interviews is eye contact. While it’s easier to maintain direct eye contact in a one-on-one interview situation, it can be more difficult with a panel. By paying special attention to making eye contact with each panel member in equal measure – especially to each person as they ask a question – you project an air of self-confidence and trust, which in turn leads to a stronger connection with all members of the panel, rather than just the most dominant or important person on the panel. Along with making eye contact with all panellists, it’s also a great tip to quickly memorise each of their names – combining eye contact with repetition of the person’s name as you answer their question is a powerful combination.
Finally, remember to stay cool, calm and collected. While that may be easier said than done, treat the panel interview like a conversation with a group of friends. The panellists probably realise most interviewees are nervous, so don’t get hung up on it. Breathe deeply, listen carefully and intently to each question and take your time when responding.
Combine all of the above tips, and you’ll be the best prepared, most relaxed candidate in a panel interview you possibly can be!
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